'Good Morning America' co-anchor Robin Roberts being introduced by Richard J. Kramer, chairman and CEO of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company at the blimp christening near Akron, Ohio. Roberts christened the new-technology airship 'Wingfoot One.'
Akron, Ohio – On Saturday Aug. 23, 2014, ABC News “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts christened The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s latest blimp “Wingfoot One” with the crack of a champagne bottle on the control car. The ceremony took place at the company’s blimp hangar in Suffield Twp, Ohio, near the tire maker’s corporate headquarters in Akron. In addition to invited guests of the company, 2,000 members of the public also attended, after previously securing admission wrist bands from a limited supply made available first-come, first-served, from area Goodyear tire dealers.
Roberts was introduced by Richard J. Kramer, chairman and chief executive officer of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company since 2010.
“The new blimp renews our commitment to our airship program, builds on our legacy as the leading operator of airships, and continues our leadership in providing superior aerial coverage of the most watched news, sports, and entertainment events,” Kramer told the crowd assembled inside the blimp hangar.
Prior to the christening, Roberts noted her family’s ties to the tire maker. “In 1918, my great-grandfather was recruited by Goodyear and moved his family to Akron for a better life. A number of other relatives have worked there too,” said Roberts. “I don’t think my great-grandfather could have imagined that one of his descendants would be asked to christen the Goodyear blimp. I’m so honored.”
After the ceremony, the airship was taken out of the hangar to prepare for a flight with Roberts aboard as the Jackson High Scholl band played Pharrell Williams’ song, “Happy.”
The name Wingfoot One was selected from nearly 15,000 entries in an online public voting contest. Akron resident Charlotte White submitted the name, and she will receive a day of activities with the new airship as her prize.
Wingfoot One is a new design of airship for Goodyear, based on the German-built Zeppelin NT, but customized for Goodyear airship operations in the U.S. The design modifications currently are under review by the Federal Aviation Administration, with certification expected soon. Three NT-type airships will replace the current fleet of GZ-20A blimps, a design that has been around since 1972.
The new fleet of airships will be more than 50ft longer and 95,000ft3 larger in volume than the current blimps, and can carry up to 12 passengers instead of six. The new airship is also faster, capable of a top speed of 70mph versus 50mph for the GZ-20A type. Quieter and more maneuverable, the new airship can hover above one spot, giving it an advantage in providing aerial high-definition television coverage at major sporting events.
Components for Wingfoot One were manufactured by Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik (ZLT) and assembled during the past year by a team of Zeppelin and Goodyear engineers in Ohio.
With information provided by The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company